Production Details / Press Releases
Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church is the collective and shared title of seven dances and one publication to be choreographed and directed by Trajal Harrell. “What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the Voguing ball scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church?” Rather than illustrating a historical fiction, these new works transplant this proposition into a contemporary context and debate about seduction of the audience. What we experience was neither possible at The Balls nor at Judson, but a third possibility is created. Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church: THE SERIES comes in eight sizes- Extra Small (XS), Small (S), Medium (M) also known as (M)imosa, Junior (jr.), Large (L), Plus (++), Made-to-Measure (M2M), and Extra Large (XL).
The (L) confronts the postmodern antagonism against tragically dramatic dance epitomized by Martha Graham’s mythological Greek dramas by presenting an all-male contemporary dance version of Sophocles’ “Antigone”. By imagining a theoretical meeting between Voguing and Post-modern dance, much of Yvonne Rainer’s 1965 “No Manifesto” is put into crisis. Most of the no’s become definite maybe’s: maybe to spectacle, maybe to transformations and magic and make-believe, maybe to the glamour and the transcendency of the star image, maybe to the heroic, maybe to involvement of performer or spectator, maybe to style, maybe to trash imagery, maybe to camp, maybe to seduction of the spectator by the wiles of the performer, and maybe to moving or be moved. The only thing we know for sure is yes to the heroic and we’re adding yes to the tragic.
The choreographer comments: “In the case of the (L), I wish to re-imagine the classical theater of ancient Greece. Is it possible that voguing and this theater of antiquity were not so far apart in their performative strategies? It is easy today when we see men performing as women to classify these forms as drag, camp, travesty, or to base our conclusions on notions of sexual identity; but sexual identities in Ancient Greece did not fall into the categories we prescribe today. Therefore, perhaps this performance of mixing genders had it’s own codes and references. Can we imagine that there was ‘Greek Theater realness’ where like voguing, gender and class or social status were revealed as constructions of codes of fashion and movement? It is also easy to forget through layers of classical interpretations that the theater of antiquity was a intrinsically political theater whose purpose was to educate and potentially problematize the important responsibility bore by the citizens of Athens (all men).
Furthermore, how did cross-dressing in theater roles function as activism to debate potentiality of female citizenship? Did these artists – actors, directors, and writers – use this particular performativity to shift the political beliefs of the day? In Antigone, a young woman, albeit royal, goes against the highest ruler of the land, the king, not only in action and law, but in debate and intellect. Although her status as a woman makes her actions even more antagonistic, I wish to explore her femalehood as a trope of politicization to rethink both gender rights in Ancient Greece, but also this ancient performative context itself as a kind of ‘gender trouble’ perhaps not so different from the discourses of our today.
Therefore, the central aesthetic questions become: how do we vogue the play Antigone? What new meanings are produced from this operation as well as new relations with the contemporary theater audience? Furthermore, what would it have meant to vogue Antigone in the context of 1963 Judson Church? Would this had created an aesthetic anachronism that further divided our Harlem traveler from these new Judson colleagues? Or maybe by voguing Antigone something closer to Judson aesthetics rather than Graham aesthetic might be created that in turn gives us an even more ‘authentic’ representation of classical Greek theater? And might this authenticity further problematize the ways in which we have assimilated and re-imagined Judson aesthetics? These are the questions which we will investigate in our creation. There is no possible way to know exactly what this theater was like. Video did not exist, but by reimagining the possibilities, perhaps we reimagine the notions we have today in respect to gender, class, and sexuality.”
Trajal Harrell is a New York-based choreographer working internationally between Europe, Asia, North and South America. He is perhaps best known for a series of works entitled Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church which re-imagine a meeting between early postmodern dance and the voguing dance tradition. In Fall 2012, he premiered the last work in that series, Judson Church is Ringing in Harlem (Made- to-Measure)/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (M2M), with the distinction of being the first dance commission of MoMA PS1. Most recently, he created the first of a new body of work examining butoh dance from the theoretical praxis of voguing. This latest work, Used, Abused, and Hung Out to Dry, premiered at The Museum of Modern Art / MoMA in February 2013.
Cast & Credits
Choreographer: Trajal Harrell
Dancers: Trajal Harrell, Stephen Thompson, Thibault Lac, Rob Fordeyn, Ondrej Vidlar
Set design: Erik Flatmo
Light design: Jan Maertens
Sounddesign: Robin Meier and Trajal Harrell
Dramaturg: Gérard Mayen
Technical manager: Bob Bellerue
Co-production: New York Live Arts, CNDC Angers, CCN Belfort, dance in August / HAU-Hebbel on the shore
Residences: WpZimmer – Antwerp, Workspace Brussels, Pact Zollverein – Food, Dansens Hus – Stockholm
Kindly supported by The Jerome Foundation, The Multi-Arts Production Fund, the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation
Production and International Touring: Key Performance, Koen Vanhove and Julia Asperska
Tanz im August 2014
Artistic director: Virve Sutinen
Production management: Sven Neumann, Andrea Niederbuchner
Supported by the Governing Mayor of Berlin – Senate Chancellery – Cultural Affairs.
Funded by the Capital Culture Fund and Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie.
HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1)
Tickets: +49 (0)30 259 004 27
The video documentation is produced on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. The purpose of this contract is to document productions in the field of contemporary dance in Berlin. The master recordings are archived by the University Library of the Berlin University of Arts. Copies of the recordings on DVD are available for viewing exclusively in the reference collections of the following archives (at media desks in these institutions):